By Todd Ferguson
Transient

After a 14-year hiatus, Beavis and Butt-Head has returned to MTV. Many fans of the “new” Beavis and Butt-Head are likely in their mid-thirties to early forties and are enjoying a bit of nostalgia from their high school and college years, when the show provided an easy excuse to do bong hits and invent drinking games (“Okay, every time Beavis says ‘Cool’ or ‘Dumbass’ or Butt-Head laughs you gotta fuckin’ drink”). Glory days. Now a new and younger generation can be indoctrinated to this infectious idiocy.

After watching several of the new episodes—sans bong & drinking games, but with a bottle of wine—I found myself wondering, Why? Yes, I still laughed my ass off. Yes, it was clever to include Beavis’ and Butt-Head’s commentaries on MTV reality shows (Jersey Shore16 and PregnantTeen Mom) in addition to music videos. But why is the show back? Why do we watch it? And what the hell does it say about us?

Knowing there probably isn’t some grand narrative answer to these questions (nor should there be), I came up with some existential qualities that characterize Beavis and Butt-Head—embarrassing, inappropriate values that make the show such a guilty pleasure.

Unfettered pleasure-seeking ids: Sex-obsessed, immature, unreflexive, irrational perverts. They never end up having sex, but their sole mission in life is to look at porn and try to score. Dr. Freud would be proud. “Hey Beavis, we need a chick that doesn't suck. No, wait a minute, that's not what I mean.” An ontology of primitive pleasure.

Naïve nihilists & myopic cynics: They truly don’t give a shit and are champions of schadenfreude. The world is nothing beyond whatever is directly in front of them. Everything else sucks. And they constantly beat the crap out of each other and destroy or burn whatever they find. “Damn it, all this wussy crap is pissing me off! C'mon, get violent! I wanna see some violence!” An ontology of nothingness.

Champions of sloth: Laziness rules, work is for losers, and their torn sofa is the center of their universe. “This sucks more than anything that's ever sucked before. We must find this butt-hole that took our TV.” An ontology of stasis.

Masterminds of ineptitude: All of their plans result in remarkable failure—and typically self-inflicted pain. “Dammit Beavis, what the hell are you doing? You're not supposed to have your penis out while you're cooking!” An ontology of masochism.

Beavis and Butt-Head is both a mocking condemnation and an exalting celebration of modern American adolescent stupidity. Immune to any type of moral reasoning, Beavis and Butt-Head offer glimpses into what the complete suspension of the ethical might look like. And rather than turn away in fear we tune in and laugh until we piss ourselves. But just a little bit.

Photo: Screen Junkies